Welcome back to another chapter of Unraveled!
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And now for the seventeenth installment:
Table of Contents
Unraveled, Part 17
Hemlock and the rest of the nymphs started preparing for the journey. It was evening, nearing dusk, just like it had been in the human world. In Tarrin, I reminded myself. It seemed odd that time could work the same in Feylinn, but it could be a few months different from Tarrin, and I just didn’t know it. Maybe the Well was a time warp and if I ever made it back home, I would be as old as Rip van Winkle. I chose to believe that wasn’t the case. But I didn’t know anything for certain.
“Bramble, Cedar – guard the back,” ordered Hemlock. “Pine, you’re up front with me. Ash, I want you attending to the prisoners.”
“As you wish,” she acquiesced.
They fell into formation. Were we really just going to walk to Aethelney? It seemed like there should be an easier, more magical way to get there. But Hemlock started walking, and Bramble and Cedar followed him, so the only thing to do was to follow suit. Two weeks of walking. I didn’t think I could do two weeks of walking. I had never done more than a 5K before. Now I wished I had run that half marathon with Hayden, like she was nagging me to do. Anything to keep up with five tree nymphs and a faerie.
We walked out of the clearing where the Well was located. As we went, we descended into the darker first, with trees entwining overhead and blocking out the sun. How long until it would be too dark for me to see? I was sure the nymphs wouldn’t have that problem, being Fey and all, but hopefully they would have some consideration for Catherine and myself. The group tightened to form a line. Ash was in front of Catherine and me, and I had the urge to touch her hair and see if it was an actual leaf.
As if she heard my thoughts, she looked at me over her shoulder. I dropped my gaze to the ground. Hayden would have hated the dirt, the way it caked itself onto my boots. What would she think of the situation?
A thought blasted its way into my head, like a lightbulb moment except bigger. My cell phone was in my bag. But what chance was there that it would work in Feylinn? Probably none. In all the fantasy books I read, how lame would it be to have the faeries contacting the human world? The Fey probably didn’t even have computers.
I wondered what Crochet Fanatic’s latest post had been. She posted free patterns every Friday, and I hadn’t checked in my hurry to get out the door. Well, I would look when I got back. If you get back, persisted that annoying little pessimistic voice, the one that found the dire side to every situation. Shut up, I told it. Was it normal to be thinking about blogs when you were kidnapped, miles away from home, in a completely unfamiliar, magical place? I didn’t know anyone I could ask….
I nudged Catherine. “How you doing?”
“Just peachy.” She was focused on the path ahead as it wound through the trees. “You?”
Her lips formed a tight line. “I guess we’re in for a long hike, yeah?”
“The nature hike to end all nature hikes,” I supplied. “Wait until my sister hears about this. She gives me such a hard time for never exercising.”
“Yeah. She ran her first half marathon when she was thirteen. I never heard the end of it.” I thought back to all my extended family sending her congratulatory cards. She completely deserved it, but it was a little disconcerting to be the non-athletic older child. “She wanted me to put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my car when I got one.”
Catherine giggled, the peal of laughter breaking through the shadows in the forest. I saw Hemlock stiffen at the noise. The conversation was good for me, though, and Catherine was making just as much of an effort to keep it going. We both needed a distraction. “Do you have a car?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “Well, kind of. My mom lets me use hers.”
“Yeah, except it’s a smart car, so there isn’t much room for cargo.”
My foot caught on a root, but Catherine grabbed my arm before I could fall. “Is this going to be a regular occurrence?” she asked.
“Afraid so,” I said, my cheeks burning. “It’s…there’s so many things to trip…”
“It’s okay.” I could hear her smile even as I looked to see where to take my next step. “I don’t care, I can be your crutch.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, letting her words hang in the silence. I wondered if the Fey were listening to us. But it didn’t matter. Why did I care if they overheard?
The sun was beginning to slip beneath the horizon. I could just make it out in a gap between the trees. The shadows were lengthening, casting darkness onto us. I could still clearly distinguish the path, though, and I didn’t take my eyes from it, not wanting to trip again.
“It’s really dark anyway,” Catherine added. “I can’t even see where I’m going.”
“What?” Now I looked at her, path being forgotten. She didn’t look like she was kidding. But it was just a little overcast and shadowed. I could see clearly.
“I mean, the sun set,” she said. “My watch says it’s nine thirty.”
“Your watch works?”
“Yeah. But what do you mean? Isn’t that why you’re stumbling?” Her eyebrows were creased in confusion.
“Um,” I said, “I can see just fine.”
It took a minute for that to sink in, for her to realize I wasn’t messing with her. “You’re serious,” she said. “What are you, a cat?”
Ash spoke up. “There are some benefits to being Fey.” She didn’t turn around, but tilted her head. She appeared to be thinking about something, maybe deciding how much to say.
“I see that,” I said. “Anything else I should know? Can I stick to walls, or throw flames?”
“I hope so,” said Catherine.
Ash didn’t laugh at Catherine’s remark. “No.”
“Shoot,” said Catherine. “I thought things were going to get interesting.” She elbowed me in the side. “You don’t even have wings. What kind of a faerie are you?”
That was exactly what I was wondering. “Yeah, how can I be Fey?”
“Aisling,” said Neirin. Her voice was pleasant enough, but that one word was enough to strike some fear into Ash. She tensed up, shoulders rising a couple inches.
“You have Fey ancestry,” said Ash. “That’s all the questions I’ll be answering for now.”
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!